Practice Your Self-Care With Mindfulness

By: Lisa Marie Blair

I spent another weekend on the couch. I watched whole seasons of shows, ate all the snacks in the house, and returned to work on Monday as stressed as ever. I felt worse, but told myself it was okay. It was self-care.

I spent another weekend watching old movies, making smoothies, and dry-brushing before long showers. I felt better, but nothing changed when Monday rolled around. I hadn’t changed. I had only run away and hid from the world. Was this self-care?

More and more I needed these mind-numbing weekends. I needed to shut off and get away, and I was sure that was the same as taking time for myself, of staying healthy, of practicing “self-care,” of loving myself.

I went on like this for a long time, trying to relieve stress and find a new perspective. But no matter how many self-care tips I read, I never felt better longer than it took to make a coffee scrub, brew some tea, or add an avocado to something.

I realize now that I’ve confused escapism with self-care.

Then, a few weeks ago, I started meditating again. I started again because it was easy and it worked. 10 minutes in the car during my lunch break was like starting the whole day over again. I wasn’t sure why it worked, but it did.

I use an app that makes it easy. I stick to the free sessions and keep my practice simple and short. I focus on awareness, acknowledgment, and acceptance.

Mindfulness, the art of “focusing one’s awareness on the present moment,” is an important part of every meditation session.

You sit cross-legged, or feet flat if in a chair. Start with the top of your head and scan your body down to your feet.

How does your neck feel? Your arms, hips, legs, and toes — how do they feel?

Now, soften your gaze. Don’t look too long or too hard at any one thing, just notice where you are and what is there. Close your eyes, breathe, and count: in, out, one, in, out, two…..

Don’t get too caught up in your thoughts. Your mind will wander, that’s okay. Return the focus to your breath when you notice it happening. Be gentle, breathe, and pay attention — that is all.

Now I want to take mindfulness out of meditation, and with me when I take care of myself in other ways. But it isn’t easy.

Mindfulness is easy when we are happy. When we feel good, we want to experience what is going on, in and around us. What we forget is that it is also as important to be mindful of what doesn’t feel so good too.

Escapism is the opposite of mindfulness. When we use self-care as an escape, we learn nothing, change nothing, solve nothing, work through nothing. The reasons we need self-care in the first place are lost. All we’re left with is the good feeling that comes with pampering, and all we can do is enter and exit a cycle of repressing, forgetting, and consuming.

Instead, I’m working to see self-care as a safe place to be mindful of what isn’t working, what isn’t fulfilling, and what is hurting. If I get too caught up in my emotions, I return to the present, to breathing, to doing something that feels good. Do it gently, with acceptance and patience.

I was sold self-care in the form of bath bombs and face masks and beach trips and binge-watching; but none of that helped me deal with what was toxic or stressful in my life.

The commercials and the ads told me to “treat yo’ self, “ but no one told me what to do with all the stress and pain. None of it made me feel more equipped to deal with my boss, my girlfriend, my mother, my failures, my trauma, or illness. It only helped me forget.

Escapism is easy. We all do it from time to time, and we all need it from time to time, too. But there is always the human tendency to take too much of a good thing and turn it into a bad thing. Escape when you have to. But when you can, as soon as you can, come back to yourself.

Go over your day while you drink that calming tea. What went well and what went wrong? Scrub your body with sugar and salt, and picture what it is you are afraid of. Remind yourself you are stronger than you know. In the 10 minutes it takes for a mask to purify your face, you can imagine your better life, your better self, and how you can take just one step closer to that. While you “treat yo’ self” with a few friends, open up about how you have been feeling and what you’ve needed. Ask for advice and let yourself be vulnerable.

To really care for yourself you have to be there. You can’t just check out and expect to feel better when you have to return. Pay attention, count your breaths, and feel your body.

Use the safety of self-care to confront what hurts. Use it as a time for intimacy with yourself and what is.

Use the masks and the bombs, make smoothie bowls and drink lots of water. But while you do it, make sure a change is happening inside, too.

About: An aspiring writer fascinated by what we simply are.

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